Mile End, London28/02/10
The atmosphere in The Victoria is strange as James Chance and new band Les Contortions get on stage. It’s how you’d expect a nursing home to feel if the carers managed to double-book Noel Edmunds and Jesus; shot-to-pieces with a sense that it’s too good to be true. That’s not to mention the fear that, at 56 and looking like the penguin from Batman, he might be shit. From the opening bass hook of ‘Off Black’ though, fears are sent packing and, bar the endless drone of brainless fashion-whore conversation (proving the theory that he’s name-checked twice as much as he’s listened to), it’s a perfect gig. The band rip through Contortions’ and Blacks’ classics like ‘Roving Eye’ and ‘Almost Black’ before airing tracks from the new LP – think Jazz quotes, walking bass and dusty hi-hats twisted perversely out of shape. Impossibly tight, they operate in an awkwardly erotic millimetre between swing and chaos that’s rapturously danceable; Chance lurching between organ, sax, vocals and his signature dance moves. His derailed version of James Brown’s drug sermon ‘King Heroin’ marks a welcome return to older material and it segues into ‘Contort Yourself’ with an encore of ‘I Can’t Stand Myself’. What a beautiful way to spend a Sunday night.
By Edgar Smith
Originally published in issue 15 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. March 2010